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Thursday, December 19, 2013

School District Must Comply With Local Zoning

UPDATE:  An appellate court affirmed the trial court's ruling, and now the case has been appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

A McHenry County Circuit court recently ruled that a Crystal Lake school district cannot ignore local zoning regulations.  In Gurba v. Community H.S. Dist. 155, a high school installed bleachers at its football stadium without applying for a variation from the height restrictions in the Village of Crystal Lake's zoning code. Adjacent property owners sued the school district, alleging that the school district was in violation of local zoning laws.  The City also argued that the school district was required to comply with municipal zoning and storm water regulations. The school district defended its decision to install the bleachers without local zoning approvals, claiming it was exempt from local zoning because of statewide preemption of municipal land use authority over schools. 

The circuit court judge ruled in favor of the City, granting its motion for summary judgment.  The court acknowledged that there was no case directly on point, although a similar issue had been raised in a case involving zoning of park districts where the court held that park districts were subject to local zoning.  Significantly, the court found no provision in the Illinois School Code that would exempt schools from complying with local zoning regulations.
This case could certainly be appealed by the school district, as it and many other school districts routinely take the position that they are exempt from local zoning regulations.  While it is true that the Illinois School Code exempts schools from local building codes, municipalities argue that there is no similar provision in the School Code exempting schools from compliance with zoning regulations.  The Illinois School Code also contains express language authorizing schools to apply for zoning relief from municipalities, further supporting a municipal argument that schools are subject to local zoning regulations. 
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

Photo courtesy of Northwest Herald.


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